Touching the Earth:
A Homestead Retreat for Young Adults
July 31 – August 21, 2021
An invitation to live and learn in a community of vibrant peers, tending gardens and practicing meditation
This three-week immersion for young adults (ages 18-24) on a secluded Vermont homestead is an opportunity to cultivate self-awareness and deepen your relationship with others and the living earth. Our small learning community will explore the Buddhist concept of interbeing through the fields of permaculture, ecology, living systems theory, ecopsychology, social justice, and climate studies. Readings on these topics will feed rich discussions, often facilitated by students.
At times we will co-create rituals inspired by Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects, calling on our moral imaginations as we live beside ancestors and future beings. Daily rhythms will include morning silence, mindfulness practice, physical exercise (e.g. work projects, hiking, swimming, yoga), solitude in nature, creative expression (e.g. writing, reciting poetry, singing), council practice, and sharing nourishing meals. We will also learn from and be inspired by local farmers, artists, climate activists, and wildlife biologists – people who can share their experience of composing an original life and engaging in meaningful work during this time of transition toward a life-sustaining society.
Most of our time will be spent outdoors. We will sleep in tents, gather for meals on a screen porch, sit around a campfire to sing and share our thoughts. Mindfulness practice will take place in a meditation room as well as outside on the land. Making conscious choices about what we eat, cook crews will prepare meals in the kitchen, incorporating vegetables harvested fresh from the garden. For the entire three weeks, we will take a break from using screens and devices, supporting our intention to be fully awake to our present moment experience.
This experiential program does not offer academic credit. Students enrolled in college have the option of incorporating research for college coursework. (The program faculty can serve as advisors for this process.) Upon completion, all students can request letters of recommendation for college applications, internships, and paid positions related to farming, experiential education, community-organizing, and environmental protection. With just 12 students engaged in this intensive program, faculty come to know each student well and, when desired, can offer mentoring for education and career choices.
Edelglass Homestead & Marlboro, Vermont
The Edelglass Homestead has been evolving on a two-acre clearing in the foothills of the Green Mountains since 2010. Beautiful hiking trails weave through the mostly-hardwood forest and connect the house to a small college campus, home to the world-class concerts of the Marlboro Music Festival. Other trails lead to the tiny village of Marlboro, to extensive beaver ponds, and to the shores of pristine South Pond.
Permaculture principles have guided the design and development of vegetable and herb gardens, pollinator meadows, a small fruit orchard, and a modest “edible forest” of native shrubs and trees. The homestead has hosted permaculture workshops, academic conferences and talks, and Buddhist meditation retreats, as well as workshops on particular skills such as handcrafts, group singing, and council facilitation. Groups of summer volunteers live in tents scattered around the clearing.
The rural town of Marlboro is located in the Upper Connecticut River Valley, a land inhabited for countless generations by Abenaki people, many of whom continue to live in this bioregion. Marlboro is filled with artists, scholars, and homesteaders drawn to the area by Marlboro College and the Marlboro Music Festival. The 40 square miles are mostly forested; the human population has never topped 1300. Other inhabitants include white-tailed deer, moose, black bears, red and grey foxes, coyotes, fishers, mink, beavers, porcupines, bald eagles, common loons, barred owls, chickadees, and beautiful individuals belonging to hundreds of other animal species.
“Touching the Earth”
Just prior to his awakening, according to tradition, Gautama Buddha called on the earth to be his witness. This moment appears in much Buddhist art, represented by the Buddha sitting cross-legged with his hand touching the earth. Today, this image also represents a practice of living according to the Buddhist and ecological insight of interdependence, acknowledging the living systems in which we are embedded and on which our very lives depend.
Who Should Apply
We welcome applications from young adults who enjoy living in community close to nature and are passionate about contributing to the Great Turning – the transition to a world that is healthy and just, ecologically and socially. Experience with meditation, compassionate listening, gardening, and camping is beneficial but not essential. Personal interests in a wide variety of areas will enhance our learning community. Most of all, we are looking for people who are curious about the world and ready to connect with other living beings.
Program Fee and Scholarships
The total program fee is $2400. In an effort to make this program accessible to well-suited applicants regardless of their financial circumstances, a scholarship fund has been established specifically for Touching the Earth. An application for need-based financial assistance is included at the bottom of the program application. We will offer what we can to meet financial need up to 75% of the program fee. Accepted students wishing to develop creative fundraising plans to meet the tuition balance will receive guidance and support from the faculty.
Applications Open: February 15
Applications Close: April 1
Interviews Begin: April 15
Accepted Applicants Notified: April 30
Registration & Initial Payment: May 1 – May 15
Final Payment Due: June 15
Program Dates: July 31 – August 21
Note on Coronavirus Safety
This program will follow the guidelines issued by the CDC and the State of Vermont for preventing COVID-19 transmission. Since these guidelines are continually being updated, students and faculty will be given explicit instructions by July 1.
Kirstin Edelglass, MA is a wilderness guide, ecological educator, and counselor whose passion for supporting young adults runs deep. In addition to teaching at Sterling College, Colby College, Marlboro College, and Lesley University’s Audubon Expedition Institute, she has founded a number of programs including the Canoe Expedition for Maine Girls and the Earth Leadership Cohort (for young activists learning to facilitate the Work That Reconnects). She is cofounder of the New England Council Collective and leads workshops in facilitating listening circles, song leading, and cultivating ecological consciousness. Kirstin and her husband (with their 6-year-old twin daughters) host WWOOF volunteers year-round on their Marlboro homestead.
Larkspur Morton, Ph.D. has held teaching and leadership positions over the last two decades in experiential college-level programs focused on ecology, cultural perspectives, the functioning of vital learning communities, and advocacy for regenerative change. She served as the Executive Director of the Expedition Education Institute for 10 years. Prior to that, she chased (studied) squirrel monkeys through the Peruvian jungle and gray jays in the boreal forest, taught biology at Colby College, and thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, ending in Maine, where she now resides. Contemplative practices have been a throughline in her life and work including Buddhist philosophy and meditation, authentic movement, and deep ecological connection.
William Edelglass, Ph.D. is Director of Studies at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. He serves as chair of the board of directors of the International Association of Environmental Philosophy and co-editor of the journal Environmental Philosophy. William writes and teaches about a broad range of themes in Buddhist studies, environmental humanities, climate studies, aesthetics, and ethics. He met his wife, Kirstin, when they were both working as wilderness guides in Maine. For more on his scholarly work, see William’s interview with 3:AM Magazine or this conversation with William on the Imperfect Buddha Podcast.
Clayton Clemetson, BA, has been immersed in earth-based ways of living for most of his life, from home schooling in rural Maine to traveling with Kroka Expeditions in Ecuador. He feels fortunate to have received an early grounding in meditation by attending the Teen Retreat at IMS. Graduating from Marlboro College with a degree in holistic education, he studied the potential of experiential semester programs to deepen connection with the world around and within. Last year he co-facilitated a nine-month gap year program with the High Desert Center in Colorado. For many years he has taught and performed world folk music with the renowned choral group, Northern Harmony.